Is the Marian University baseball team headed to their first playoff appearance since 2008?
The Marian University baseball team is truly turning on the heat against their opponents as of late.
The team’s head coach, Jason Bartelt, said: “We struggled in Arizona (The team’s spring training trip) against great competition. We tested our hitters. We tested our pitchers. We are now starting to see the benefits of just that.”
The ball club went down to Arizona to compete against some of the top programs in the country. They played the No. 2 team in the country, St. Thomas University and were handed a tough loss. They played Division II ranked schools, and also tasted defeat. The high note for the trip was when, on consecutive days, they received a win against in-region opponents Luther University and Central College.
For the spring trip, the weakness that stood out to everyone involved with the team was pitching. They came home from the spring trip with an 11.13 ERA. A college baseball pitching staff normally strives to be anywhere under a 5.00 ERA as a team. The team was uneasy about their performance, but no one was panicking. The message of calm was echoed throughout the team. This message came straight from the top.
Head Pitching Coach, Brian Burgert noted: “Going into this season, we knew that we had a ton of depth in bullpen. What we didn’t know was some of the roles that the pitchers were going to take on. On the pitching staff alone, we have five seniors. The senior leadership on this staff has really been the glue that stuck this team together.”
“I knew that this team was going to turn things around. They are simply too talented of a team not to,” repeated Jason Bartelt.
Well, the pitching phase of the game has turned their season around for the better. In the last eight games, the pitching staff as a whole has posted a 2.49 ERA. It is no coincidence that this ball club is currently enjoying an eight-game winning streak.
What you cannot forget is how lethal this offense truly is. The lineup that this team puts out every game is very, very good. The team leads the conference in runs, hits, doubles, home runs, runs-batted-in, average on base percentage, and slugging percentage. Three hitters (Earl Vorpagel, Tony Grannis, Adam Ryan) are all hitting over .400. Seven hitters are hitting over .300.
“The ability that this whole lineup has is unbelievable. We set high expectations for every at bat that we have and we have done a nice job of living up to that,” Grannis stated
Senior, Kirkwood, MO native T.J. McCoy, is really having a breakout year at the plate. He is hitting .385 with 10 doubles, 2 triples, 5 home runs, and 35 runs-batted in. He is second in the conference in runs-batted-in and leads the conference in home runs. His freshman through junior season, he was always second on the depth chart at first base. He has waited his turn to be the everyday starter at first base and is really taking advantage of his opportunity.
This past weekend (April 18-19) the Sabres competed in conference double headers against MSOE and Concordia University-Wisconsin. The first two games against MSOE were won decisively by the scores of 11-3 and 11-1. The next two games were very played by both teams, but the Sabres came out on top in both contests by the scores of 6-3 and 5-4. The second game came down to the last out in the bottom of ninth inning when Tomislav Dugandzic hit a walk-off single to seal the victory for the club.
This team as of April 19 is 16-13 overall and 11-3 in conference play. There are six remaining conference games left and one non-conference game left. They are sitting alone in second place and are one game out of first place. They are competing in a doubleheader against Benedictine University (15-16, 10-4 NACC) on April 25. The Benedictine Eagles are one game behind the Sabres in the conference standings, which, will makes these two games very important for both squads.
So, revisiting my question at the beginning of the article… “Is the Marian University baseball team headed to their first playoff appearance since 2008?” The answer is undetermined at this time but, the chances are extremely high.
Photo credit: http://www.sabreathletics.com/sports/bsb/2014-15/Releases/20150404smsr9r